Provenance Pleas

by Anthony D. DiBiase 2019-05-01

The skinny on this essay – freedom and provenance for algorithms & data (aka PAD) require privacy.

online business model tentacles ads

3rd party tween you & i

baits us to click thru memes fads

controls behavior sells my

identifiers identity

location health credit

stop this we must discredit

our infrastructure edit

and share humanity

We limit this discussion to online privacy – digital networks & servers where algorithm-driven tides of data ebb & flow. In this abundance of algorithms & data (some preciously yours dear reader), we must vigilantly enforce privacy laws & regulations, especially on how algorithms & data are used (in addition to respecting fellow citizens); one must have privacy (one of my core values[1]), to be free. The first part of this essay introduces the concepts & status of online privacy, then discusses provenance for algorithms & data (aka PAD). The essay’s second part explores ways to use PAD as a basis to regain our online privacy. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Intro & orientation

Having a third party laser-focused on profits & advertising (& other motives we have no control over) between the first and second parties, say you & I, destroys any notion of security or privacy online.

“Online privacy” means control of two types of access : (1) traditional security that protects one from adversaries, and (2) a level of privacy that allows one party to grant access to another trusted party. We have become so conditioned to accept heavy online surveillance [via “free” apps on mobile devices for the sake of capitalism] in our everyday that we fail to value our individual privacy, and to shame those spying prying corporations into finding a legitimate business model.[2]

Though nearly all of us are dependent on open source software, a vanishingly small proportion of businesses understands its interdependencies & properly applies updates, particularly those for security (e.g. thanks Equifax for compromising my identity when you failed to apply security patches). Black hats easily exploit human interaction – corporations’ denial of malicious compromises has progressed to population-scale denial of citizens denying they are being “trolled” online. Libertarians and capitalists (unintentionally or not) have created profit-seeking infrastructure unable to provide adequate security for citizens. The more access corporations have to the data from individuals, the easier it is for their algorithms to “shape” our lives – do you know the sources for the media you consume each day?

Mobile devices play a critical role with the ability to provide your location, digital credentials, calendar & more – in real time. We value privacy relative to the culture we live in – e.g. Western Europe enforced GDPR before the USA because they value privacy more. US capitalism prefers to continue to exploit our lives (sans privacy) for short term profit. We need a reference – an end goal; PAD is proposed as precisely that goal (and encourage each reader to dig deeper).

Provenance attributes content to its creator permanently and provides a record of consumers who access it (paid for or free).

We must see thru & above the fear tactics from marketing departments of private companies that “protect” you online (e.g. your identity, passwords, etc.). Without secure infrastructure, products & services claiming to protect you border on delusion & deception.

Among other challenges, the accelerating pace of changes, updates & patches (and similar effects) required to sustain security for most of the software we have used online is exorbitantly expensive (e.g. end-of-lifing most of the OS software from enterprise corporations).[3] New technology like the Internet of Things (aka IoT) will further accentuate the needs for agile processes to secure software, tools & apps for online users. The foibles & leapfrogging in the cartoon “Spy vs Spy” reminds us of the need to constantly update & improve any systems aiming to provide security & privacy, especially for the long term.

For any computing system connected to the internet to be considered “secure” – and I use this term loosely – strict control must be asserted over its policies, rules & human interactions. Algorithms & data must adhere to these policies. Online privacy requires these controls to attain minimum levels of security.

When we agree to enforce similar sets of security policies across connected systems, most importantly those that distribute knowledge and preserve provenance to sources that create algorithms & data, we establish an infrastructure identity. Extraordinarily, corporations do just the opposite to their users by centralizing information, hiding sources of data & algorithms, and commonly placing the burden of risk for their own mistakes on users in lengthy, legaleses – aka EULAs. Just when we’ll change this wretched corporate tide is in your hands dear reader.

meaning notes for poem below:

algos = algorithms

cryptocosm = coined by George Gilder in his book “Life After Google”

anti-fragile = coined by Nassim Taleb in his book “Anti-Fragile”

MVP = minimum viable product

FAMGA = Facebook Apple Microsoft Google Amazon

tis I in facets degrees

online chaos flat light

whither privacy my

stolen id keyless sold

lax security try

to patch human fold

usurp black hat expanse

for algos `n data

value provenance

to global create a

cryptocosm anti-fragile

freedom’s civic respect

MVPs so agile

to surpass org’ protect

from shameful FAMGA might

our privacy pleas(e)


Reputation is everything online. Our systems must be capable of securely protecting each person’s identity to allow us to maintain & control reputations. We must also know what data & algorithms influence a person’s identity – a level of transparency & provenance not available in today’s systems. Commercially available hardware & open-source code can be used to alter a video stream in near real-time.[4] Transparency and control of the algorithms embedded in networks must be part of the design of secure infrastructure for our future.

How do we control data privacy & security in an increasingly complex world where “big data” (aka your digital access & assets including passwords, credit cards, email, banking & other digital credentials)? For starters, converge privacy & security (thankfully already underway ). This is not a limitation of technology, rather the will to architect & build infrastructure to support it.

In the digital realm of shared algorithms & data, fundamental value lies in content provenance (NOT data itself as an AI can synthesize data). The digital & network infrastructures humans evolve must securely manage data provenance.

Yes you need algorithms, code, tech, but privacy proper is far more than product code cranked out by corporate employees (e.g. one’s buying power with cash requires a stable US currency – thank you Federal Reserve Bank & many government agencies securing our national currency!).

What happens when weakly implemented privacy, security & [y]our data converge on today’s poorly architected “internet of corporate things” (aka databases)? Corporations like Equifax have NOT got you covered nor will free markets care for individual citizens; WE must take action as individual citizens. We need to re-architect the internet[5]. Indeed, we require security and privacy to converge – this time on a secure, resilient (even anti-fragile) infrastructure – one designed to distribute intelligence, minimize human errors / vulnerabilities, and track data provenance (e.g. provide each citizen the right to control their data).[6]

Who will have the courage to disrupt today’s policy paralysis and online profiteer “flat light” chaos – to stem FAMGA’s often deliberately opaque, criminal, capitalist greed? [7]

Surely, you wouldn’t be trading your privacy for a cozy capitalist-controlled soul bubble – or would you? 23andMe just showed what happens to your [sampled] genome when from such acedia you agree to an EULA stripping you of your rights.[8]

Regaining our privacy

Not only are we relinquishing our rights & privacy online, we are losing our sense & value for the common good (e.g. Silas Dogood aka Ben Franklin, Ralph Nader & MANY others who lived civic-minded values).[9] So many patriots have given their lives for our freedom; the threat of 21st century Americans giving in so easily to recent corporate influence is grotesquely ironic. Do we really want our legacy to describe us for what we are today – blind apathetics – when such great potential exists for online freedom & provenance? What price are you willing to pay to shift control [of your data] from FAMGA to you? Do you have the grit & guts to stand up for your freedom?

We must balance the power of digital automation with human agency. Think of the power of Youtube without a single, central, controlling private owner.[10] What if benevolence went viral with all our creativity & authenticity permanently traceable to each creator? A thing of beauty. Indeed resplendent, and NOT free. When, of their own accord, a plurality of citizens change their behavior to pay for services online, they will enable new forms of privacy.

Ledgers are a key tool used by our largest asset exchanges to control their largely automated businesses. Using an online ledger-based system to transparently transact with personal information & assets also makes sense – PAD’s time has come. PAD also requires policies to be enforced on systems (e.g. data & network centers, servers, mobile devices) humans process data with.

Ultimately, the impetus for privacy & security must come from citizens & acted on at local, state & national levels. New policies for PAD will require organization and funding at multiple levels of business & government. Again, tech plays the role of amplifying & helping enforce regulations & policies formed around human values. Hardware companies & public groups have already introduced products for real-time security, and there surely will be many & varied new products on this theme. Products like SGX from Intel are already being used in the design of large cohort data sharing services in health care.[11] The voice of large numbers of citizens willing to act will be amplified by evolving tech (admittedly in its infancy) from digital contract & currency infrastructure pioneers like Casa & GoTenna.[12]

Consider the latest Silicon Valley unicorns and the relatively small teams required to code the automation delivered in today’s cloud services companies (e.g. Amazon, Google, Microsoft). As business further automates for efficiency & speed, fewer and fewer humans will be required to start, maintain & grow a business.[13] Within the next few years, under the aegis of FAMGA & their kin pounding their “AI/ML/DL” mantra[14] into the media & code into open source (make no mistake – we are their guinea pigs & paying subscribers for cloud [& other] services), automated decisions (aka “suggestions” from recommender systems) will not only pervade our culture, they could destroy it – unless … unless you care enough to regain control of your life by shutting down the surveillance state – opting out of all those “free” apps & services – and eliminating the government backdoors. Just as “the cloud” entered its hype cycle over a decade ago, AI’s current wave is now in full stride on the mission to control our behavior.

Do you think critically about the content you consume each day?[15] Simply realizing what’s going down here should scare the hell out of us, but you be the judge. In our new awareness, let the dialog & product development begin on just how we regain our privacy!

    1., : 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners – Jaron Lanier | : How we need to remake the internet | Jaron Lanier
    1. Deepfakes and the technology behind it – BBC Click –, Face2Face: Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment of RGB Videos (CVPR 2016 Oral) –, DeepFakes Explained –
    1., specifically

Valuing our time together

by Anthony D. DiBiase on December 12, 2018

Whether or not you believe the idiocracy[1] (sorry state of affairs wherein citizens are mere sheeple) has arrived, we must bolster each other’s strengths for the long run. I’m a humanist among a growing sea of dataists[2] (all decisions data-driven). Allowing billionaire philanthropists to sort the challenges of individual citizens is misguided; we need to evolve our capitalist & democratic infrastructure to be effective & efficient in the 21st century & beyond[3] nadir, Girandadis, To steward our future we must ask & answer tough questions; these are sprinkled throughout this essay as challenges for the reader.Do you value your human agency – one that decides timely & wisely? Have you wondered how to unite people in this country of extremes? How can we unplug our tech AND be farsighted with strong-willed positive mental attitude – aka PMA? The notion of a shared set of values centered on the freedoms our forefathers proposed in the US Constitution starts the conversation. Previous writings on best practices, principles & habits – e.g. the Covey series of “best habits,” also guide our future. In my mind & with an emphasis on community (versus each individual – e.g. authenticity as a value), freedom, integrity, privacy, healthcare, nutrition, spiritual development, and lifelong learning are key values. Our unity depends on such a shared set of core values. Can you list your core values (NOT your corporation’s)?

Freedom – specifically personal, economic, political[4] – inspires any country’s future (and always has for America). Societies that value freedom benefit from empowered citizens who fund & engage in business, nurture & deepen cultures, innovate & scrutinize change, and elect visionary leaders. US-style freedom has demanded we both challenge what’s possible and deliver on high expectations. When we form teams, set high expectations & liberate members to share, we improve the likelihood of superior quality. How will the notion of freedom change [by your actions & choices] in the course of your life? Freedom change you?

Integrity enables trust. Transparency maintains trust. Humane societies rely on trust, first to build resilient infrastructure, then to prosper. Our guardians form our individual understanding of integrity; parent imprints virtues in child. The clarity & fidelity of online media needs metrics & standards analogous to those used by audiophiles – e.g. THD & SNR of sound reproduction. Do we have similar metrics to scrutinize quality & integrity of online media? Where is the true “signal”? Who distorts it & how? Moreover, the integrity of our human relationships deserves much more time & energy. Are we scrutinizing the companies who provide essential products & services [on the internet] thoroughly & often? And when we expose lies & deception, how do we act? Which people in your life have demonstrated the highest integrity? How have you built on their archetype?

Privacy is also essential to maintain trust (and sanity). The sale of your location data (e.g. by wireless carriers) not only exploits your privacy, it couldcjeopardize your safety. The accelerated scale of orchestrated, malicious breaches of networked computer systems (& thus privacy, esp. online) loom like an exploding star – without security, the white heat of organized & other crime melts any illusion of order & law. Security & privacy must be top priorities in the architecture of systems & processes we interact with. Where are the “2 guys in the Palo Alto garage” to disrupt the hyperscalers[5] exploiting our “password-protected” personal data? Mobile devices in the US not only default to “share”, they now attempt to control you based on recording your conversations (without making your voice eavesdropping explicit!)[6]. Our online history persists even after we try to “delete” it & can be a negative bias out of our control[7]. Ad money surreptitiously rules dictator-style across America – not so much these days in China where new models collect revenue in creative ways from mobile apps[8]. We must grow up – again – even if this means hyperscalers must be shamed into finding legitimate business models, i.e. ones providing products & services without violating our right to privacy & freedoms in the US Constitution[9]. This situation [citizens as the hyperscalers’ bitch] must change. Citizens, behead the idiocracy & assert your right to privacy! You can start with a thoughtful letter to your Congress[wo]man.

Healthcare – what most societies consider a basic human right – is largely a capitalist venture in the US & increasingly challenges government at all levels. GDPR takes us back to privacy – baseline tech needs to protect EHR/EMR & other biodata; no existing examples of electronic systems that actually accomplish this over entire lifetimes. Prudent use of tech, can significantly lower healthcare costs. The federal government under the current administration will continue to strip services for at least the next 2 years (yes, giving a huge tax break to corporations raises our deficit, but bald-faced lies telling us we can’t spend on healthcare – destroying trust & the antithesis of “leadership”[10]). The Trump administration’s continued attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act[11] underscores the utter moral & ethical piracy at hand. Thus, the importance of experiments at the state & local government levels cannot be overstated. State governments are forging ahead to improve healthcare services despite federal dysfunction. Though a single-payer system would have many benefits – e.g. sharing far more genomic research data, costs of transitioning from the current multi-payer to a single-payer system are prohibitive, even at the state level[12]. While working for Boston Children’s Hospital during the early oughties, funding [blood] stem cell research under the latter Bush presidency taught us to augment our efforts – both private & federal; the current administration reminds us to think long-term-creative & consider new options. Every citizen deserves affordable healthcare – as a basic right. We already have hybrid healthcare – private & federal, so let’s support efforts to ensure healthcare for all citizens. How well does your current healthcare arrangement work? What are major obstacles? Do you believe in a single-payer system as a way to lower costs?

Improving nutrition is a no-brainer – turn eating healthy foods into a benefit. Insert nutrition into healthcare – e.g. prescribe fresh produce in the medical clinic[13]. Responsible corporations – please replace sugar- & unhealthy fat-laden, low-priced food & drink with healthier products[14]. By “healthier”, I mean low to no processing, fresh produce, whole grains. Buying locally sourced foods also saves energy & resources. Our microbiomes – esp. those in the lower intestines, need fiber to stay balanced & intact. Higher quality on the shelves means healthier citizens, and the possibility of lowering healthcare costs. Citizens – strive to make daily meals from only fresh & unprocessed foods! Would the elimination of low-cost, highly processed foods from your local grocers affect you? How many grams of [sugar, saturated fats] do you consume daily?

Our society needs to nourish & cultivate spirituality (not implying religious beliefs here). Replacing – at least in part – the current focus on money & outcompeting each other with solidarity – e.g. “we’re in this together” attitude, and the goal of sharing resources for all will help scale society as a whole. The trend of sharing IP as open [software] infrastructure has accelerated innovation[15]. An attitude that shares wealth & good fortune fortifies life.  Our mobile devices addict us while baiting with divisive media [often from foreign trolls].  Mixed reality devices with richer user experiences[16] will soon be available will exacerbate this addiction. Break the addiction now: grow a window herb garden in your kitchen, walk your ‘hoods & woods, barter with a friend, share an unused object at your town Recycling center/dump, buy lunch for a personal hero you admire, borrow books from your local library, insist on quality customer service from living humans – and MANY more. What have you done to support some of your community’s daily struggles? Of other life that supports us? As individuals, practicing meditation, reflection/prayer, journaling & honoring [family] traditions deepen & purify our connections. As communities, nurturing & caring for those in need expands compassion & extends patience across all generations.

We learn our entire lives in multiple modes – e.g. curious, playful & purposed; our livelihoods depend on rapid assimilation of new data & ideas. Practicing & continuous improvement of our skillsets strengthens our workforce & broadens our potential productivity. We must each recognize, focus on, and communicate our best strengths, as well as discover bridges to new skills the market requires. Curiosity & human networks play a vital role in our career development. As tech marketers continue to hypecycle[17] tools, our goal should be long-term relationships with people and continuous flows of learning. A 10-plus-year continuous set of projects with little or no breaks spent transitioning between projects or gigs is an example of this flow. Farsighted intent must first be cultivated. In my own case, watching my family members suffer chemo treatments circa 2000 catalyzed my transition into computational biology and created a source of intent. As I delivered projects & products, serving the life sciences community & improving human health has become a lasting purpose. Have you developed your [organization’s] culture & values well enough to last thru constant change at all levels from within & in your market? What are the key challenges you face & what communities can assist? How will you train your team to add more value?

As the human body needs a strong “core” in a musculoskeletal sense, so too a thriving society needs a common set of core values. This essay aims to motivate a stronger sense of unity in our society using a shared set of core values. Clearly, the authors life experiences have biased the core values presented above; please share your wisdom in the comments below. Which of the core values discussed here (freedom, integrity, privacy, healthcare, nutrition, spiritual development, and lifelong learning) resonates most with you? Which of your core values are missing from this list? Let’s focus our PMA on what we CAN control. Do you share a common set of values at work? At home? How do core values change among the communities you’re involved in? What values are most lacking in your life? Embrace change with proactive roles in debates, dialogs, products & services rolling out in the near future; stay focused on scrutinizing “progress” through the lens of human values.

Additional Notes:

Technology amplifies human values. We must first establish the right set of shared values in order to maximize the potential benefits of tech. Artificial intelligence (aka AI; yeah, we’re in it’s third wave & counting) serves as a great example of a recent hypecycle tech from marketers. AI’s latest parade of semantics redresses algorithms & statistical methods centuries old – today’s twist adds serious compute power driving their capability to all our devices. Stay tuned for a future post to review this year’s AI World conference at Boston WTC earlier this month. The next wave of decision automation (wipe that barcode off your forehead!) impacts all[18]. What’s your opinion of how algorithms & automated decision processes will impact your future?

About three weeks ago I viewed a video for George Gilder’s latest book “Life after Google” on the Hoover series “Uncommon Knowledge” hosted by Peter Robinson. For some strange reason (‘cause hurt hyperscaler ad revenues perhaps?), the video is no longer accessible[19]. You can find another sell by Gilder here though I prefer the interview with Robinson.

Though capitalism & democracy have failed to scale for the benefit of all citizens, hybrid systems (augmenting the “creative destruction” espoused by corporations) can help us break complex challenges into more manageable, affordable milestones[20].

NOAA & NASA data strongly suggest the “human ecosystem” is the main driver for climate change; population control & more efficient use of natural resources at the scale of billions of humans is essential to our future[21].

This year’s best science reads – search “2018 best science books” in your fav engine – brim with climate change, deep observations & curious attempts to expose truth at the edges of human understanding. We will continue to rise above misguided federal leadership to discover farsighted localized solutions for our communities[22].

Consider poetry as a source to pray, reflect & learn – search “2018 best poetry books” in your fav engine.

Organized crime sells millions of credit cards back to banks daily as identity theft & malicious, large-scale infotheft accelerates. Your electronic health records are far more valuable & also being sold.

  11. Anyone who labels it “ObamaCare” emphasizes their political bias.